Cher arrives in Islamabad as Kaavan the elephant packs his bags; meets PM Imran

Updated 28 Nov, 2020 01:31am

Images Staff

Singer offers her support for furthering government's green initiatives through her organisation "Free the Wild".

First a presidential farewell and now a visit by the one and only Cher? Kaavan may be 'lonely' but definitely loved.

Iconic singer and actress Cher arrived in Pakistan to celebrate the departure of Kaavan, dubbed the “world’s loneliest elephant”, who will soon leave a Pakistani zoo for better conditions in Cambodia after years of lobbying by animal rights groups and activists.

Because of security concerns, Cher’s schedule was not made public. However, apart from meeting Kaavan, her itinerary included calling on Prime Minister Imran Khan.

According to tweets by the Prime Minister's Office, the premier appreciated Cher's efforts in retiring Kaavan to an elephant sanctuary and thanked her for her campaign and role in this regard.

PM Imran also invited the singer to participate and contribute towards the government's initiative for the expansion of protected areas, to which she kindly agreed.

Cher applauded the premier for his government's key initiatives for ensuring a cleaner and greener Pakistan, saying that the "Protected Areas Initiative and the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami initiative of the government were highly commendable and praiseworthy as nature-based tools for climate mitigation".

She also offered her support for furthering the green initiatives through her organisation Free the Wild and thanked the Prime Minister.

Kaavan finds a new home

After living in Islamabad for 35 years, Kaavan will be shifted to a sanctuary in Cambodia following directions by Islamabad High Court (IHC) in view of its improper care due to the absence of a natural habitat at the zoo.

“Thanks to Cher, but also local Pakistani activists, Kaavan’s fate made headlines around the world, and this contributed to the facilitation of his transfer,” Martin Bauer of Four Paws International, a Vienna-based animal welfare group that’s led the charge to save Kaavan, told The Associated Press on Friday.

Bauer lauded the powerful impact celebrity voices can have for animal rights.

“Celebrities lending their voices to good causes are always welcomed, as they help starting public discourse and raising pressure on responsible authorities,” he said.

“Around the globe there are animal lovers, famous and not famous, and the support of every single one of them is crucial,” he added.

Earlier in the week, Kaavan was given a farewell by President Dr Arif Alvi and First Lady Samina Alvi at Marghzar Zoo. The president visited the zoo a day after the citizens said goodbye to Kaavan with songs and speeches.

President Dr Arif Alvi and first lady visit Marghzar Zoo to say goodbye to Kaavan on Tuesday. — APP
President Dr Arif Alvi and first lady visit Marghzar Zoo to say goodbye to Kaavan on Tuesday. — APP

Four Paws spokeswoman Marion Lombard said that the preparations for Kaavan’s departure on Nov 29 would start at 6am. The elephant will be sedated at 10am and shifted to Nur Khan air base by 1pm.

“It will be airlifted by a Russian cargo aircraft to Cambodia,” she said.

Equally popular among children and adults, Kaavan, the male Asian elephant born in Sri Lanka in 1985, was gifted by the Sri Lankan government to the then president of Pakistan. An elephant named Saheli was brought from Bangladesh in 1990 that remained as Kaavan’s partner until its death in 2012. Kaavan was temporarily chained by zookeepers in 2002 for its aggressive behaviour.

Animal rights activists have been campaigning to free Kaavan and to treat animals in a better way at the zoo.

On May 21, 2020, the IHC ordered that all animals, especially Kaavan, be immediately relocated to better sanctuaries.

After Kaavan, two Himalayan brown bears will also be relocated to Jordan on Dec 6, completing the process of relocation of all animals at the zoo.